Antisemitism in Greece
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Part of Jewish history
Antisemitism in Greece manifests itself in religious, political and media discourse. The recent Greek government-debt crisis has facilitated the rise of far right groups in Greece, most notably the formerly obscure Golden Dawn.
Jews have lived in Greece since antiquity, but the largest community of around 20,000 Sephardic Jews settled in Thessalonica after an invitation from the Ottoman Sultan in the 15th century. After Thessalonica was annexed to Greece in 1913, the Greek government recognized Jews as Greek citizens with full rights and attributed Judaism the status of a recognized and protected religion. Currently in Greece, Jewish communities representing the 5,000 Greek Jews are legal entities under public law. They come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, according to Law No. 2456/1920 "On Jewish Communities".
History of antisemitism in modern Greece
In 2000, the Greek government was obliged by the EU to remove the reference to "religion" from the national identity card. Leaders of the Orthodox Church protested, saying the government was "bowing to Jewish pressure". The Archbishop (of Athens and All Greece) Christodoulos waged a campaign against the reforms and mobilized thousands of Greek citizens in mass protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki. These were followed by a series of antisemitic attacks motivated by notions of a "Jewish plot", including the extensive desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the Athens synagogue, and the defacement of Jewish monuments and private properties with slogans as swastikas.
Antisemitism in the media
In some cases, leftist and mainstream forums made no pretense of their traditional antisemitic sentiments. The standoff at the Church of the Nativity and the Greek Orthodox Easter season generated many analogies between the role of Jews (Israelis) in the Crucifixions of Christ (Arafat) and the Prophets (Palestinians).
During 2006, anti-Israel feeling revived and escalated with the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and the Hizballah. Leading media organs promoted the image of Israel as a Nazi state, which was attacking unarmed, helpless people in South Lebanon. Hizballah combatants were often described as 'freedom fighters' and 'resistance groups', while antisemitic references, as well as comparisons with the Holocaust, were common.
One of the causes of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in Greece has been the strong Greek desire to solidify ties with the Arab World, in order to counterbalance the Turkish-Israeli alliance. In recent years there has been great improvement in Greece-Israel relations, particularly following the disintegration of Israel–Turkey relations after the Gaza flotilla raid. In August 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Greece. On his two-day tour, the Prime Minister discussed with the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou the possibility of expanding strategic ties and establishing greater cooperation between the nations' militaries and related industries. It is yet to be seen what affect this geopolitical change will have on Antisemitism in Greece. While Greek Jews today largely "live side by side in harmony" with Christian Greeks, according to Giorgo Romaio, president of the Greek Committee for the Jewish Museum of Greece, there has recently been an increased effort to work with other Greeks, and Jews worldwide, to combat any rise of antisemitism in Greece.
On February 7, 2014, Theodoros Karypidis of the Syriza political party remarked on his Facebook page that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was "lighting the candles in the seven branched candelabra of the Jews and lighting Greece on fire... He is organizing a new Hanukkah against the Greeks" when Samaras paid a visit to the synagogue in Thessaloniki as part of a commemoration of the destruction of the Greek Jewish community by the Nazis during the Second World War. A Samaras spokesman described the comments as "unacceptable, racist and anti-Semitic", and the party called a special meeting to address the issue. Towards the end of 2014 Panos Kammenos, the founder of the right-wing party Independent Greeks, made an antisemitic comment during an interview, saying that "Jews don't pay taxes".
Besides the antisemitism in politics, there have been instances of Jewish cemeteries being desecrated (Kos, July 19, 2013; Thessaloniki, October 30, 2011; Kavala, June 13, 2010). During 2011 a synagogue and a Holocaust memorial were also sprayed with antisemitic graffiti. Towards the end of June 2014, a threatening graffito was found on the Athens Holocaust memorial. The graffito said, "Paragraph X-2 of hilkoth akum in the Talmud states, it is proper to kill Jews who have been baptized...Otherwise we shall destroy the synagogue for you". Two more antisemitic graffiti were scrawled towards the end of 2014. In Thessaloniki a monument dedicated to the old Jewish cemetery was covered with anti-Israeli messages, and in Larissa the Jewish cemetery was desecrated with antisemitic slogans.
In March 2015, a survey about the Greeks' perceptions of the holocaust was published. Its findings showed that less than 60 percent of the respondents think that holocaust teaching should be included in the curriculum. Giorgos Antoniou, a historian at the International Hellenic University, commented to the article and said that "the Holocaust is not really treated as an issue of national concern”.
In April 2015, Dimitris Kammenos, a MP for the right-wing Independent Greeks party, responded on a Tweet by Russian news-site RT about antisemitism in Europe with the question: "Have you recorded the attacks of Jews against all of us?". Two months later some antisemitic graffiti found in Athens and in Kavala. All of the incidents involved desecration of Holocust memorials.
The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) published on 2015 the "ADL Global 100", a report of the status of antisemitism in 100 countries around the world. According to its findings, 69% of the adult population in Greece harbor antisemitic attitudes. Furthermore, the research found out that 38% of the population agree with the statement "Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars", and 85% think that "Jews have too much power in the business world".
The rise of the "far right"
Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) was a fringe movement when founded in the early 1980s and remained so until 2009. In the 2009 elections, it garnered a meager 0.23 percent of the vote. In 2010, it won a seat on the Athens City Council and in the June 2012 election it received 6.92 percent of the national vote - thus becoming the fifth largest party currently in the parliament. According to an October poll (in 2012), if elections were held then, Golden Dawn would gain no less than 14 percent of the vote, making it Greece's third-largest party. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras described Golden Dawn as "a right-wing extremist, one might say Fascist, neo-Nazi party". With its violence against immigrants, swastika-like emblem and Nazi salute, its aggressive rallies, and unabashed references to Mein Kampf, as well as its propagation of literature touting the racial superiority of the Greeks, promoting Aryan supremacy, racist and antisemitic ideology, and Holocaust denial. Nevertheless, Golden Dawn does not regard itself as a Nazi or even neo-Nazi party (although couple of pictures published on August 8, 2013 revealed a swastika's tattoo on Elias Kasidiàris shoulder ), but simply as a nationalist formation, the members of which seek to rescue Greece for the Greeks - with its nationalist rhetoric, the party appeals to Greek pride. On June 17, 2012, eighteen members of Golden Dawn were sworn into the Boule ton Ellenon (Greek parliament). In so doing, it has arguably become the most extreme right-wing political party to have won parliamentary seats in Europe in recent years. In 2002, marked by an wave of antisemitic manifestations, the most disturbing was the electoral success of George Karatzaferis, the leader of the ultra-nationalist LAOS party. Karatzaferis was one of the most outspoken promoter of antisemitism in Greek public life, and often used his television channel, TeleAsty, which was granted an official license, to voice antisemitic, racist and nationalist propaganda. He also owned the weekly newspaper Alpha Ena, both of which, along with the LAOS party, were singled out as the major disseminators of the September 11th libel in Greece.
On January 2014, thousands of pictures and videos were found at one of the Golden Dawn MP's. They carried antisemitic rhetoric and included photos of party members performing the Nazi salute or violent acts. Earlier, on May 2013, Golden Dawn MP was ejected from Parliament chamber after few "Hail Hitler" calls were heard.
On March 2, 2014, a doctor who is a member of the Golden Dawn party, had put a plaque outside his office which said, in German, "Jews Not Welcome". A search by authorities retrieved 12 knives and three daggers, two inscribed with Nazi symbols, and he was arrested.
The Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church has yet to officially absolve the Jews for the death of Christ. Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies still contain verses in which collective guilt for the death of Jesus is ascribed to the Jews. Antisemitism is also retained in popular Easter customs. According to Professor Frangiski Abatzopoulou of the University of Thessaloniki, the Burning of Judas Iscariot (the Holy Thursday custom of the "Kapsimo tou Youda") is the "most familiar and widespread manifestation of traditional anti-Semitism in Greece". She notes that "the accusation [against the Jews] for Theoktonia, reactivated through liturgy, cannot be examined in the framework of rationalism given that it is inscribed in religious experience". But, she stresses, "it can be examined in relation to the mechanism of scapegoating, which constructs the 'Jew' as guilty not only for 'theoktonia' but for all the other suffering in the world as well".
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